Rampaging number 8 Rob Leota has been named the Melbourne Rising's 2019 "Shawn Mackay Player's Player' at this evening's End of Season Awards Ceremony.
The honour caps off an eventful year for the backrower after overcoming a major shoulder injury that limited his Super Rugby involvement.
“It was great to see Rob back out on the park and playing week-in and week-out,” said Melbourne Rising Coach Pom Simona.
“You could really see his confidence growing as he got more and more games under his belt.
“Rob came into the professional environment straight out of high school and has had a tough time with injuries these past few years.
“This NRC campaign we really got a chance to see how dominant he can be when his body is right.
“It’s scary to think how good he can be because I still don’t think he has reached his ceiling yet.
“I think his performance in the NRC this season can really launch him into a strong 2020 Super Rugby campaign. He’s ready now to mix it with the big boys on the big stage.”
Taking out the "Gary Gray Team Spirit" award was Rising rookie Ola Tauelangi.
The twenty-year-old is a product of the Rugby Victoria pathway and is another local player who has transitioned from the Dewar Shield into the NRC.
“Ola has barely had a season of open age rugby under his belt but has made the jump into the NRC almost seamlessly,” stated Simona about the young lock.
“Our pathway program has done a great job of preparing him for this level of rugby.
“In an environment with a lot of big personalities, he has been openly embraced by the playing group because his dedication and work ethic is of such a high standard.
“The playing group see him working tirelessly to improve his game, and that helps drive the standards we set out there on the training field.
“His enthusiasm is infectious and when you see guys like that around the squad, you know that the future of rugby here in Melbourne is in good hands.”
2014: SEAN MCMAHON
2015: JORDY REID
2016: TOM ENGLISH
2017: JACK MADDOCKS
2018: SIONE TUIPULOTU
2019: ROB LEOTA